Empowering diversity: a volunteer’s journey with Employment Empowers 

Sarah Haq, a landscape architect for the Hobsons Bay City Council, shares her experience as a volunteer mentor with Employment Empowers. This CMY program pairs young people looking for work with volunteer mentors, and works with community organisations who are passionate about developing an inclusive and diverse workforce.

“I saw the Employment Empowers program advertised on the side of the tram and it immediately got my attention. As a person from a multicultural background, I felt I had something to contribute from my own experience.”

It’s the mentoring aspect of the program that attracted Sarah. She believes that the program is important because it helps to bridge the gap between multicultural young people and mainstream Australian culture.

“I understand that young people new to Australia might not have the same opportunities and networks, like extended family or professional contacts or school/university friends, which can be isolating.”

When they first start meeting, Sarah thought it would be more about working together on the resume and cover letter. However, as they continued to talk, she began to realise that their conversations were more about inspiring and capturing Malya’s* imagination. It was then clear to Sarah that their discussions were not just about the practical aspects of getting a job.

Initially, Malya was uncertain about what she wanted to do long-term. But through their conversations, she gained more clarity about her interests and what she wanted to pursue. Although they appeared to have differences in career and personal interests initially, Sarah’s ability to find commonalities with her mentee started some exciting discussions. They were both artistic people interested in creative professions.

A rewarding moment was helping Malya find direction. Sarah had walked past the social enterprise, the Social Studio many times in her local neighbourhood, and introduced her mentee. Malya ended up joining the Social Studio as she felt it was a good fit, from there it felt like all the little fragments fell into place.

Sarah realised that Malya needed more of a pep talk to feel inspired and direct her energy. She found that Malya was confident and very determined, and having a supportive family helped her to overcome some of these obstacles.

Sarah found the experience rewarding when she helped Malya find direction for her career and creative ambitions. They workshopped things that Malya was passionate about and wanted to do. Writing down her achievements so far helped Malya realise that she was not starting from scratch in Australia, but that she had already achieved a lot, including knowing multiple languages.

“When you help someone writing down their own resume and what they have achieved, they can see that everything they’ve done is legitimate and it worthwhile putting it down on paper. She thought she was coming to Australia and was starting from scratch. But we built on the things she’s already done, and we changed that narrative for her.”

Looking to the future, Sarah believes that breaking down isolation is essential to support and empower young people from diverse backgrounds to find employment. A way to achieve this is by creating opportunities for people to meet and interact with those from different communities.

Sarah recommends the Employment Empowers program to any other professionals who would like to contribute to a young person’s journey into employment. Volunteer mentors can have a significant impact on a young person’s life by sharing their experience, skills, connections and insights.

Learn more about Employment Empowers

Find out more about volunteering at CMY

*Name changed for privacy.